Tools designed by and for marginalized communities are creating critical links between social research and activism
On Monday July 10, we were thrilled to hold a day-long workshop at the Natural Capital Center: Powering Health Equity Action with Online Data Tools. Co-hosted with PolicyLink (National Equity Atlas) and our partners in Portland’s Regional Equity Atlas, the event was designed to share and advance data-driven initiatives for health equity outcomes across the country. Attendees presented a variety of data tools and platforms, contributed to design principles and best practices through working groups, and learned about both national and regional equity atlas initiatives.
A highlight of the day was the lunchtime livestream forum, Data Tools for Health Equity Action. Workshop attendees and those watching online heard from leaders in national public health, policy, and social justice. In case you missed it, watch the livestream below and see highlights from the presenting panelists to learn more about their work.
On July 10, a group of equity data leaders convened at Ecotrust's Natural Capital Center for a conversation about online tools and data that are aiming to address equity disparities in communities. Panel speakers include:
Sarah Treuhaft, Senior Director at PolicyLink (moderator)
Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer/CEO of the Partnership for Southern Equity
Sam Sinyangwe, Co-Founder of Campaign Zero and Mapping Police Violence
Julia Sebastian, Research Associate at Race Forward
Cat Goughnour, Founder and Principal at Radix Consulting and Right 2 Root
Antwi Akom, Co-Founder & CEO of Streetwyze; Co-Founder of ISEEED; Professor & Founding Director of Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab UCSF & SFS
“We wanted to take this information and help people unpack it, understand it, and use it in their activism.”
— Sam Sinyangwe, Co-Founder of Campaign Zero and Mapping Police Violence
Sam Singyangwe started mapping police violence in early 2015, when tensions around police shootings were mounting but not much data around the issue was available. Singyangwe reached out to Black Lives Matter activists on Twitter, got connected, and began creating mapping and data visualization tools. On the homepage of Mapping Police Violence, visitors are greeted with a map that rapidly displays each police killing of a black person, day by day, in 2016. Said Singyangwe during the forum, “The purpose of this map was, quite simply, in two seconds or less, to convince people that this was indeed a crisis and something systemic was going on.”
The website, however, isn’t only about disseminating information; Singyangwe included information on existing police reform policies, their effects on police violence, and how concerned individuals can advocate for reform in their own communities.
“A lot of people focus on organized money and organized people, but organized information is another key pillar to building power in community.”
— Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer/CEO of the Partnership for Southern Equity
The creation of the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas, according to Nathaniel Smith, was driven by various considerations: Combating the dominant narrative that everyone in Atlanta was thriving and they had it “all figured out” regarding civil rights; allowing truth and facts to inform policy agendas; and empowering different communities to move forward together by democratizing data. It’s designed to tell the true story of Atlanta’s well-being.
The MAEA, a precursor to Portland’s own regional equity atlas, maps information such as which areas in Atlanta have the most jobs, how local schools are ranked, work commuting times in different neighborhoods, and more across eight quality of life categories: demographics, economic development, education, environment, health, housing, public safety, and transportation.
“We wanted to break down silos of the movements that are organizing across industries, and give very practical resources and opportunities to get workers plugged into campaigns that are organizing and advocating.”
— Julia Sebastian, Research Associate at Race Forward
Julia Sebastian said the main goal of Race Forward’s Clocking In was to create an interactive and accessible tool that would help educate and organize workers pushing for race and gender equity in the service sector. It was created by interviewing actual workers about the challenges and setbacks they face in their workplaces, and collaborating with industry advocacy groups.
Navigating Clocking In is very similar to playing a game; participants assume the role of a worker in a particular sector, encounter common instances of structural discrimination in that sector, and make real choices in response. After navigating several of these scenarios, visitors arrive at an “Action and Resources” page, with information for workers and consumers.
“Outcomes driven, for me, is the issue and the promise of health equity.”
— Cat Goughnour, Founder of Right 2 Root
Cat Goughnour is intimately familiar with the issue of gentrification in Portland; her own community, that of the Albina District — historically African-American — has, she says, been pushed 20 miles west by redlining.
In 2015, through the Right 2 Root project, Goughnour began to use data to shift the narrative from a deficiency frame to an assets and strength-based frame, and to achieve cultural reclamation.
“We have great geospatial information on, ‘you live near a park.’ But what we really want to know is, ‘what is your experience in that park?’”
— Antwi Akom, Co-Founder & CEO of Streetwyze, Co-Founder of ISEEED, and Professor & Founding Director of Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab UCSF & SFS
Antwi Akom refers to the Streetwyze app as “groundtruthing”; opening up conversations in the realm beneath organizational equity data radar. A traditional map may, for example, show a grocery store near you; Streetwyze, however, may reveal that the “groceries” available are junk food and rotten sandwiches.
Along with text, users can upload pictures and audio — critically important, said Akom, for lower-literacy populations — and have the option to tell their own stories. “We believe in the power of social media when you’re trying to build power and self-determination in your community,” Akom said. Streetwyze invites communities into sustainability and equity conversations that previously have been absent from the table.